Australian expats' most-missed hometown favourites

Author: Naomi Chrisoulakis
Photography: Chris Chen

Overseas success can have its price for expats. As we celebrate Australia Day, we ask leading lights based abroad about their most-missed hometown flavours and haunts.

Catherine Martin
Oscar-winning costume designer; divides her time between Sydney and New York.
"I miss so much about Australian food that when we come home for Christmas, I indulge in everything from Yalla yoghurt to a meal at Rockpool Bar & Grill. But my favourite Sydney food tradition happens on Christmas Eve: I go to the Sydney Fish Market and buy up a seafood storm - sashimi, oysters, prawns, the works - and host a big banquet for family and friends. The craziness of the fish market when it's so busy is all part of the fun." (Strictly Ballroom The Musical opens in Melbourne on 20 January.)

Barry Humphries
Comedian, author, artist, lives in London.
"I go straight to Machiavelli in Clarence Street in [Sydney], where I feel instantly at home. There, I have a restorative chicken consommé with parmesan and basil leaves, followed by a langoustine (the best in the world) or a minute steak on a bed of rocket, garlic and tomatoes. With a zabaglione for dessert I am totally restored. Alternatively, I fly to Mildura on the Murray River to Stefano De Pieri's incomparable restaurant at the Brewery, for Murray cod, perfect pasta or whatever delectable meal Stefano places before me. This has to be one of Australia's greatest restaurants."

Sally Seltmann
Singer-songwriter; lives in Los Angeles.
"Before moving to Los Angeles, we lived a stone's throw from Black Star Pastry in Newtown. We'd wander over several times a week for a loaf of their sourdough bread, a takeaway flat white and maybe some croissants. I go back there whenever I'm in town. I loved having that place as our local, and I really miss the bread and coffee - I haven't been able to find anything like it in LA." (Sally Seltmann's new album, Hey Daydreamer, is out now.)

Napoleon Perdis
Make-up guru, divides his time between Sydney, Los Angeles and Athens.
"When I arrive back in Sydney, I gravitate towards neighbourhoods with a park or open space, as I love the friendliness of people saying hello as they walk and run along. I particularly like grabbing fish and chips, seasoned with chicken salt, vinegar and tomato sauce, at Balmoral beach and watching the world go by."

Kimbra
Kiwi singer-songwriter; based in Los Angeles via Melbourne.
"Whenever I'm back in Melbourne, I head straight for the okonomiyaki from Lentils as Anything in St Kilda. I like to go there with friends on the weekend; we grab lunch before walking on the beach. I really enjoy the experience; it's a community restaurant where you pay what you feel it's worth, so there's always a nice warmth about the place. And okonomiyaki is one of my favourite Japanese dishes, yet it's very hard to find many people who make it. Especially a place that isn't exclusively Japanese."

Ben Lee
Singer-songwriter; lives with his family in Los Angeles.
"The meal that has come to define trips home to Australia for me is one that takes place even before I clear customs - the moment I'm sitting on the Qantas flight, ticking Vegemite and toast as my breakfast option. There is nothing as quintessentially Australian to me as a breakfast of yeast on yeast, and I feel an immeasurable sense of relief just to know it will be arriving before we touch down. At its best, on top of a soft square of butter slowing melting on warm white bread, the confusing blow of realising that there is no box on the immigration forms for 'expat returning for a visit' is softened, and all is simple and cosy once again."

Wil Anderson
Comedian; based in Los Angeles.
"I have only been in Sydney for two weeks in the last year, but every time I go back I grab the papers and read them while having a relaxing breakfast at Ruby's Diner in Waverley. In my opinion, they do the best breakfast in Sydney and maybe even the world. I personally like the poached eggs with salad and chilli jam, and the avocado and roast tomato with apple balsamic on soy and linseed is also excellent, but then it's all good. There are two things that Americans just don't do: good coffee and avocado on toast. When it comes to coffee and breakfast, Americans do quantity, Aussies do quality."

François Tetaz
Grammy-winning film composer and music producer; lives in Los Angeles.
"My music studio's been in Richmond, Melbourne, since 1998, and I have a host of regular haunts there that I try and return to when I'm home - mostly Vietnamese. Right around the corner is Binh Minh in Victoria Street; the fried chicken wings with lime, salt, pepper and chilli dipping sauce are like crack. There's Pho Chu The for chicken pho in winter, sharing a table with some random people and watching the condensation cover the windows. Co Do was the family's favourite, and I love Thy Thy for the vibe, MSG and nostalgia - it was the first place I tried Vietnamese food. And I still love New York Tomato, the local café where I had a tab, mainly filled with ham, cheese and tomato toasties."

Damon Herriman
Actor; divides his time between Sydney and the US.
"A coffee from almost anywhere around Newtown is essential as soon as I dump my suitcase -although it's getting better, a good coffee is a lot harder to find in the US than in Australia. Campos is always good. Then I do the food rounds in the neighbourhood: the massaman lamb at Thai Pothong is a long-time favourite; a beer at the Courthouse Hotel is a perfect way to catch up with mates after being away, plus the beer garden experience is something I love about home. But I think the biggest thing I miss about food at home is the bread - in the US it's generally a lot sweeter - so I'm never long home before getting a great sandwich from Brewtown Newtown or Luxe."

Curtis Stone
Chef and restaurateur; lives in Los Angeles.
"I miss the classic Aussie meat pies and sausages rolls. They're always a winner and Americans just don't have anything like it. When I'm home, I head to Harry's Café de Wheels in Woolloomooloo. I used to live right by it and, even though it's a bit of a tourist trap, the pies are delicious."

Skye Gyngell
Chef; heads the recently opened Spring in London.
"It's the way we eat in Australia that I miss more than anything else. A delicious and healthy brunch after an early-morning dip at the beach? That's just never going to happen here in London. Long lunches under the shade of a veranda. Bustling and raucous dinners in a simple Italian restaurant, then falling out into a balmy evening where stopping for gelato at Messina feels like the absolute right thing to do. I do of course miss plump, fat and juicy Bing cherries and endless boxes of perfectly ripe mangoes at Christmas, Sydney rock oysters, dim sum in Chinatown on a Sunday morning, good fresh juices and great coffee almost everywhere."

Zoe Ventoura
Actor; based in Los Angeles.
"I miss grabbing a brekky roll and soy latte at Gusto Espresso Bar on Coogee Bay Road. On the weekends, I'd linger over the papers there before heading down to the beach for a swim. It makes me homesick just thinking about it. I feel like Americans view coffee as more functional, while we see it as more of a delicacy. You know when a café in LA has decent coffee because all the Aussies congregate there. You can get great food over here, but it's just not the same as at home, especially brekky. That feels like a really Sydney thing."







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